Antartica and the Antartica Circle: My Two Week Voyage To The End of The World on a Historic Voyage

PUBLISHED ON MAR 7, 2018 — ANTARTICA, TRAVEL

Antartica: My Two Week Voyage To The End of The World on a historic voyage

After two weeks of no service, it’s great to get back to writing and posting on my blog. If you’ve read my latest blog post [here](‘https://www.henosisknot.com/blog/bookingantartica') you’ll know that I landed in Ushuaia and booked my ticket to Antartica as a last minute opportunity. The next few weeks were unbelievable, and I am so fortunate for the opportunity to have traveled to one of the most beautiful and untouched places in the world, Antartica.

This was the hardest place to travel on my trip, not because of physical difficulty but because of the lack of flexibility, inconvenience, and difficulty in arrival.

Honestly, as I write this piece I’m not sure how to do the trip and continent a fair representation with my writing. It quite literally took the words out of me, and I am left only capable of providing a shallow description of one of the most moving experiences in my life.

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Arriving in Antartica
Ocean Endeavor

This is from the expedition team that I was apart of, but I think Solan (narrator and expedition leader) explains the feelings of Antartica better than I can.

Dare we call our expedition historic?

I was on an expedition, not a cruise. Expeditions, unlike cruises, don’t have a fixed itinerary. Based upon ice conditions and weather, where we went, what we did, and how we did it could completely change. It often did, and we had many schedule changes over the course of our trip.

The climate in Antartica is as you could imagine: cold, but what was even more challenging was the fact it was unpredictable. From one moment, mother nature could turn from a calm landscape to a vicious barrage of icy winds. Accessible birthing areas one day are inaccessible the next. It’s ability to abruptly change temperatures within the span of minutes makes the Antartica an unforgiving land for those that dare attempt to live in it.

Ocean Endeavor
Navigating strong winds carrying heavy snow fall at night

Our ship was quite impressive as far as ships go. The Ocean Endeavor is a beautiful ship designed for travel in luxury. With roughly 200 passengers onboard, ship was designed to go to the harshest places in the world with as much comfort as possible. A pool, spa, gym, library, multiple bars, and sundecks, this was by far the most luxurious travel I had in my 4 month stint in South America. The package I had was all-inclusive, and everything from the food to the service was provided with absolute exceptionalism. I was blown away by the quality of the service during the ride. The staff was exceptionally professional.

Ocean Endeavor
The Ocean Endeavor

Our expedition was somewhat significant as far as expeditions go. For one, we traveled past the Antartic Circle, which is much more south than most cruises go. We had the 2041 group joining us for the expedition, which was a large group led by Robert Swan, first person ever to walk to both the southern and northern poles. After supporting a program to allow leaders to travel into Antartica for the last 15 years and thousands of young leaders, the program is finally coming to a close with it’s last ever expedition . That being the case, this ship had things like a large film crew to mark this historic event.

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My Antarctic Checklist:

  1. Get a Last Minute Ticket to Ushuaia
  2. Reach the Arctic Circle By Boat
  3. Explore Antartica for ~8 days
  4. Return having an awesome adventure.

I can safely say I accomplished all these tasks.

The Feelings of Antartica

I mentioned before that I am not capable of describing the feelings of Antartica with due justice, but as best I can I will try and describe the emotional impact of a place like Antartica.

When I saw Antartica for the first time, my first thought was of accomplishment. Very few are privileged enough to say they made it to the land of Antartica, and many fewer at the age that I have (25). The beauty and magnificence of Antartica is impossible to ignore. Throughout the trip, Antartica forcefully tugged at my attention like a dog beckoning to be pet, except this dog was the size of the continent, vicious, and much less friendly under most circumstances. Yet for its persistent nagging, it only led me to appreciate its splendor even more. Antartica forced me to bow in the magnitude of nature, so upon leaving Antartica, I am humbled.

In spite of its isolation, Antartica is an emotional place. Unlike most places in the world, there are no billboards, cities, or museums. There are no people and so I felt this deep connection with nature while I was there. In my perspective, what makes Antartica special is it is Authentic and Honest. There is no facades or distractions. It presents itself openly and unreserved. For me, this authenticity in Antartica created an emotional connection as if Antartica was saying in a foreboding voice: “this is who I am, all I am, and everything I am. I would appreciate if you didn’t bullshit me and tell me everything about you”.


I made a small symphony in Antartica
I was sad for the last two days leaving Antartica, as I felt I was also leaving my connection to one of the most authentic and raw places on the planet.
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I felt a deep emotional connection with the land

My route

Antartica is huge (like larger than Australia huge), and most of the terrain is incredibly difficult to navigate without strong knowledge of the region. Most of my exploration through Antartica was on the Ocean Endeavor and by the coast, however for I was able to reach land multiple times over my journey.

High Level Itinerary:

  1. Feb 28: Embark Ushuaia
  2. March 1: Drake Passage
  3. March 2: Drake Passage
  4. March 3: Cross the Antartic Circle
  5. March 4: Crystal Sound & The Fish Islands
  6. March 5: The Berthelot Islands & Petermann Island
  7. March 6: Yalour Islands, Port Charcot, Plèneau Bay
  8. March 7: Danco Island, Neumeyer Channel, Damoy Point
  9. March 8: Neko Island/Antartica Continent
  10. March 9: Deception Island
  11. March 10: Head back to Ushuaia.

As you can see, here’s some of the spots we stopped in:

Glacial colors
Some of our landing points

We started the trip in Ushuaia Argentina and headed south, past the 66 meridian 33 click mark (Artic Pennisula). From there, we headed along the coast of Antartica, stopping by various historic sites, landscapes, islands, and wildlife. As an expedition, our trip was free form, and dependent on conditions we could alter our trajectory. Our ship could alter it’s course for simply a seal or whale (which we did)

Antartica Overview (High Level)

Antartica is filled with history of adventure, trial, and error in a land where many died trying to understand it. Inaccessible by winter, the cold harsh climate prevents intruders during it’s slumber.

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Boat wreckage in Antartica

One of the most famous expedition leaders was Ernest Shackleton, a British explorer who led three Antartic expeditions trying to get to the South Pole. Most notably, Shackleton’s third expedition with the ship “Endurance” was trapped in ice and later sank in Antartica. This forced Shackleton and his team to live in Antartica over a full winter. Eventually the team managed to get rescued after spending 497 days off of land in mall boats.

Geography of Antartica

Most of Antartica is covered in ice, which means there are still areas of Antartica unexplored and the geology is not fully known in detail. Even more interesting, is the size of the continent changes throughout the year as the ice sheets expand Antartica during the winter.

Antartica expands to nearly twice the size in winter

Around 320 million years ago, Antartica used to be a part of the Gondwana super continent. Over time, the continents split and Antartica pushed its way to the bottom of the globe.

Modern equipment has given people an ability to peer under the ice and see Antartica with more detail than ever before.

The west and the east of Antartica have very different geologies. Antartica has the coldest, windiest, and highest average elevation geography in the world.

The Antartica continent is surrounded by the Antartica Convergence, a natural division between the South Ocean and the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans that occurs as the cold waters of the Antartica meet the warmer waters of the other oceans.

Antartica Convergence is the Blue Line and separates Antartica/South Ocean from the rest of the world

Antartica Treaty

The Antartica Treaty was formed in 1959 as a result of competing interests around the world for claiming bits of Antartica sovereignty for themselves. Prior to the treaty, various countries from around the world tried to lay claim to parts of Antartica, hoping to eventually use it for mining of minerals or as a strategic military operations spot.

In response to the growing international interest in claiming Antartica, the U.N decided to form the Antartic Treaty, which declared Antartica a communal continent that was to be enjoyed for scientific and peaceful purposes only. This meant demilitarizing Antartica and removing some of the non-scientific bases in the area.

You can check out more details including the full list of articles here: https://www.state.gov/t/avc/trty/193967.htm

The Antartica Treaty will be renegotiated in the year 2041 and the future of the continent will be up for vote.

Animals in Antartica (High Level)

There is lots of diversity in Antartica, which is simply amazing considering the challenging environment of the Antartic for survival. For the larger families of animals, there were mainly 4 types of animals.

  1. Seals - Fur, Weddell, CrabEater, Southern Elephant, Leopard
  2. Penguins - Chinstrap, Emperor (not seen), Adelie, Gentoos
  3. Whales - Humpback, Killer, Minke, Right, Fin
  4. Albatross - Wandering, Southern Royal, Grey headed, Black browned, Lightly-mantled Sooty
  5. Cormorants - Antartic
  6. Gulls - Kelp, Antartic
  7. Skua - South Polar, Brown
  8. Petrel - Wilsons, Southern Giant, Southern Fulmar, Cape Petrel, Snow, Antartic Prion, Snowy Sheathbill

If you're wondering where are the polar bears...NO POLAR BEARS! That's in the Artic and North Pole

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Whale Tail
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Penguins
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Seals

In order to handle the frigid climates of Antartica, these animals have learned to survive in some of the most inhospitable conditions in the world. There’s a fish for example (Notothenioidei), that has plasma for blood and naturally creates antifreeze so it can survive in the ice.

The Notothenioidei can live in the ice

On the list, the most notable and numerous animals I saw were the fur and crabeater seals, the gentoo penguins, humpback whales, antarctic cormorant, both skuas.

Icebergs and Landscapes

Probably my favorite part about Antartica was the landscapes. Generally on a boat, you are surrounded by giant mountains of ice and snow throughout the journey. The light reflects off the ice and slick surface of the rock to make some pretty magnificent displays of scenery.

Mountains in Antartica
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One of my favorite things to watch was the icebergs. I saw thousands of icebergs over my trip and like a snowflake, each was unique and beautiful for a variety of reasons.

The colors on an iceberg can vary from snow white to aurora blue and when you can see the iceberg submerged under water, it gives off a translucent green which is incredibly beautiful.

Glacial colors
Glacial colors
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Glacial designs
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Conclusion

Antartica is a magical place that had an emotional impact on me. It’s unique and unlike anything else I have ever been to. I am 1000% glad I decided to fork over the money and time to visit this unique spot on the world, and honored by the continent to allow me the opportunity to see it so close.

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Antartica Sunrise
TAGS: ANTARTICA, TRAVEL